The Quotable

Just Desserts

The cheating itself never bothered me.  His body felt right moving slowly behind mine, on lazy afternoons after work with the sun slanting through his townhouse window and his dogs barking downstairs.  What bothered me was what happened afterwards.  We had both given up cigarettes, so we substituted our post-sex drags of nicotine for dessert.  When his body had retracted itself from mine, like clockwork, he’d slip away to the kitchen, bare bodied, while I would languish in his bed, imagining that the intricately carved headboard was my own.  When he would return, he’d share a tiny cup of chocolate mousse and mascarpone with me.  It was passed back and forth in silence, devoured one slow and sensual mouthful at a time.  If it was going to be the last time we would see one another for a while, he would spoon feed me.  If I was going to sleep there that night because she was out of town, I would wield the spoon myself.  Eating it took as long, sometimes, as the act that came before it.

In the movies, affairs are always rushed.  In ours, everything happened in slow motion.

The dessert was always in a tiny glass cup.  Once, when I brought over white wine to chill for an evening in, I saw a perfect row of them in the condiment shelf of his refrigerator.  I flattened my back against the door of his pantry and covered my open mouth with my fist to muffle a strange noise that climbed slowly out of the fleshy rose tissue of my lungs.  I pictured his wife with her back to me, diligently smoothing down one layer of thick crème with a layer of mousse before repeating both steps and then shaving off wispy curls of chocolate from a thick block to finish it off.  Her tiny hands broke off one piece of cling wrap after another, covering a week’s worth of serving size desserts factory-line style before going back to secure each one with a thin rubber band—the size that hurts the most when someone stings you with it from across the room.  Regardless of how many times I had seen her picture on the mantle, she had never had a face to me.  That day, she developed a set of baker’s hands.  They were small and skillful and painful to think about. From that day forward, until he moved away with her, I claimed late onset lactose intolerance.

Last week at the grocery store just down the street from his empty townhouse, I went hunting for lemon bars to eat for dinner since I didn’t have to feed anyone but myself.  The same mascarpone cups with the green cling wrap looked up at me with a great knowingness from the dessert case beside the deli.  I didn’t know if I should sing or if I should cry.

Brooke Bailey works, studies, and caffeinates at North Carolina State University. In recent past lives, she has been a corporate trainer and a high school English teacher. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the literary magazines: Lavender Review, Certain Circuits, Revolution House, and Unseen Magazine.

Subscribe or Buy

Like this piece?

Support the artist!

Share This

Feast or Famine